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Gitlab vs. GitHub: Which Should You Pick?

GitLab and GitHub are web-based platforms that help users collaborate on software development projects. They make it simple to manage, share, and track changes in code, enabling teams to work together efficiently. In terms of data privacy and security, both platforms perform almost equally.

But which one is better for you? In this article, we’ll break down each of these metrics in detail. We’ll also compare the main differences between GitLab and GitHub to help you choose the best one for your needs.

Tip: If you are starting to learn git, here are some simple Git hooks you should know.

Quick Comparison

Here’s a quick comparison table detailing the features and capabilities of GitHub and GitLab:

Category Feature GitLab GitHub
Features and Capabilities Inner Sourcing Supported Not supported
Data Transfer Provides several tools for importing and exporting data More restrictive, lacks proper instructions
Integrated CI/CD Built-in support for CI/CD pipelines Requires third-party apps
Deployment Simplified deployment with built-in solutions and Kubernetes automation Requires third-party integrations
Milestones Supported Not supported
Comment Tracking Supported Supported, with the ability to remove sensitive information from Edit History
Access Levels Assign different access levels based on roles Grant read or write access to the entire team or create private repositories for specific individuals
Knowledge Banks Limited support, not as comprehensive Comprehensive guides and tutorials available
Performance and Speed Speed Slower overall, but superior in CI/CD and advanced monitoring tools Faster overall due to extensive caching and load-balancing technologies
Uptime 99.99% 99.95%
Server Infrastructure Smaller server infrastructure Larger server infrastructure with multiple data centers distributed worldwide
Customization High customization options Limited customization options
Data Privacy and Security Authentication Supports two-factor authentication and access control mechanisms Supports two-factor authentication and access control mechanisms
Vulnerability Scanning Offers vulnerability scanning for the codebase Offers vulnerability alerts
Code Analysis Integrated set of tools for code analysis Offers similar tools, such as code scanning, code QL, and dependabot
Secret Management Native secret management feature Offers GitHub action workflows
Compliance Compliance dashboard Provides templates
Protocols Uses HTTPS and SSH Uses HTTPS (SSL and TLS encryption) and SSH

What is GitLab?

GitLab is an all-in-one platform for software development, providing tools for version control, issue tracking, continuous integration, continuous deployment (CI/CD), and more. It excels in built-in support for CI/CD pipelines, inner sourcing, data transfer, deployment, milestones, and access levels.

GitLab has two versions: GitLab Community Edition (free and open-source) and GitLab Enterprise Edition (with premium features and support). You can host GitLab on your own servers or use GitLab.com, a cloud-based service.

What is GitHub?

GitHub is a popular platform for hosting and collaborating on software projects. It offers tools for version control, issue tracking, and social coding, allowing users to follow, star, and fork other developers’ projects.

It is superior in raw speed, uptime, server infrastructure, and knowledge banks. GitHub is widely known for its vibrant community and extensive collection of open-source projects. It offers free and paid plans, with the latter providing additional features such as private repositories, advanced collaboration tools, and technical support.

Good to know: With the right guide, GitHub is pretty easy to get started with.

GitHub vs. GitLab: What Are the Differences?

GitLab and GitHub are powerful platforms for managing and collaborating on software development projects. They both use Git for version control and offer various features to help teams work together efficiently.

Below, we have shared a detailed breakdown of both platforms in terms of features, performance, speed, privacy, security, and pricing.

Features and Capabilities

1. Inner Sourcing

Inner sourcing allows people in an organization to access and modify the software according to their duties. While GitLab offers this feature, GitHub doesn’t, making it difficult for teams to collaborate and work together.

2. Data Transfer

During the software deployment cycle, coders must move large amounts of essential data such as projects, webhooks, and repositories.

GitLab has several tools that aid coders in importing and exporting data. GitHub also allows you to make data transfers but is more restrictive and doesn’t provide proper instructions on transferring data with its tools.

Do you think: Github has support for apps to allow you to extend its functionalities. Here are some of the best GitHub apps you should add to your repository.

3. Integrated CI/CD Pipelines

In order to test the software for bugs and errors throughout the development process, developers use a series of steps known as CI/CD pipelines. CI/CD pipelines automate and streamline the process of building, testing, and deploying software.

GitLab has support for CI/CD, which makes the automation process easier for developers. On the other hand, GitHub doesn’t provide any built-in commands, but you can use third-party apps.

4. Deployment

Deployment is a critical stage in the software development life cycle, involving all the activities required to make software available for end users. This process includes tasks such as compiling, packaging, configuring, and installing the software on target systems or platforms.

GitLab streamlines the deployment process by offering built-in solutions and robust Kubernetes automation. It means GitLab provides out-of-the-box features, such as continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, which automate the building, testing, and deploying of the software.

Alternatively, GitHub doesn’t include native deployment tools. Instead, you must rely on third-party integrations to enable deployment capabilities, resulting in additional complexity and a steeper learning curve.

5. Milestones

Milestones are a great way to check the progress of software development projects. By using it, teams can detect errors in the software and merge requests.

With GitLab, you can use this methodology and set it at any point in the DevOps cycle. However, GitHub doesn’t support this feature, making it harder for teams to track their development.

6. Comment Tracking Feature

Throughout software development, comment tracking in web repositories is important for team collaboration. Both GitLab and GitHub offer this feature. But GitHub even allows you to remove certain information from the Edit History if it contains any sensitive details.

7. Access Levels

In GitLab, you can assign different access levels to team members based on their roles, allowing you to exclude members from data that isn’t relevant to them.

On GitHub, you can either grant read or write access to the entire team or create a private repository and invite specific individuals.

8. Knowledge Banks

Knowledge banks are guides that help users understand how everything works. On GitHub, you can easily access everything through the GitHub Dashboard. You can also access several guides and tutorials to perform specific platform operations.

As for GitLab, it doesn’t offer much support in this area. It has knowledge banks, but they aren’t as comprehensive as GitHub.

Tip: Learn how to use Git alias to make using Git more efficient.

Performance and Speed

1. Speed

GitHub has high speed due to extensive caching and load-balancing technologies. Whereas GitLab has features like GitLab pages that let you host static websites directly to run CI/CD pipelines on your infrastructure or cloud provider.

In terms of raw speed and response time, GitHub is faster, but in areas like CI/CD and advanced monitoring and analytics tools, GitLab is way ahead.

2. Uptime

Both platforms generally aim to maintain a high level of uptime, typically around 99.9% or higher. However, the average uptime of both GitHub and GitLab can vary over time due to factors like maintenance, updates, or unexpected outages.

You can visit GitHub’s status page to get the most recent uptime information and performance history for GitHub. Similarly, you can visit GitLab’s status page for up-to-date information on GitLab’s uptime and performance.

3. Server Infrastructure

GitHub has a large and strong server infrastructure with multiple data centers distributed worldwide. Plus, it utilizes a distributed architecture to ensure maximum availability and reliability.

On the other hand, GitLab also utilizes a distributed architecture but has a slightly smaller server infrastructure which means it cannot handle traffic as much as GitHub can.

4. Customization

When it comes to customization, GitLab turns the tables as it allows you to configure the GitLab instance to meet your specific needs. For example, you can customize the interface, set up a custom workflow, create your own GitLab CI runner, etc. GitHub doesn’t offer such customizations.

Data Privacy and Security

1. Authentication and Access Control

Both GitHub and GitLab offer support for two-factor authentication; they also provide access control mechanisms such as granular positions, roles, and groups to manage who has access to your repositories.

2. Vulnerability Scanning

If your software or infrastructure is weak, an attacker can exploit it, leading to serious consequences. GitLab offers vulnerability scanning for your codebase, which detects all security vulnerabilities. In contrast, GitHub offers vulnerability alerts that notify you if your software has any weaknesses.

3. Code Analysis

Code analysis works like vulnerability scanning. It analyzes your code for security flaws such as buffer overflows, SQL injections, cross-site scripting, etc.

GitLab offers an integrated set of tools for code analysis, such as static analysis, dynamic analysis, and code quality analysis. GitHub offers similar tools, including code scanning, code QL, and dependabot for dependency scanning.

4. Secret Management

GitLab offers a native secret management feature to securely manage API keys and passwords. On the other hand, GitHub offers a feature similar to secret management known as GitHub Actions workflows.

5. Compliance

Software must meet certain industry standards and regulations to be legal and successful. GitLab and GitHub both offer compliance features that help you achieve that. While GitLab offers a compliance dashboard that helps meet regulations, GitHub provides templates.

6. Protocols

GitLab uses HTTPS as its primary protocol for communication between clients and the GitLab server. HTTPS encrypts all the communication between the client and the server so the data isn’t intercepted and the server identity is authenticated. Besides this, it also supports SSH (Secure Shell).

GitHub also uses HTTPS and SSH as its protocols. However, GitHub’s HTTPS uses (SSL Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption to communicate between the client and the server.

Pricing Options

1. GitLab Plans

GitLab offers three plans:

  • Free Plan: Ideal for individuals and small teams, it provides 5GB storage, 10GB transfer/month, 400 CI/CD minutes/month, and 5 users/namespace.
  • Premium Plan: Priced at $24/user/month or $228/user/year, it targets larger teams requiring advanced features like Code Ownership, Merge Requests with Approval Rules, and Enterprise Agile Planning. It also provides 50GB storage, 100GB transfer/month, and 10,000 CI/CD minutes/month.
  • Ultimate Plan: At $99/user/month or $1188/user/year, it caters to organizations with complex needs. It includes security features, Multi-Level Epics, Value Stream Management, 250GB storage, 500GB transfer/month, 50,000 CI/CD minutes/month, and free guest users.

2. GitHub Plans

GitHub also offers three plans:

  • Free Plan: Ideal for individuals with limited needs, it includes unlimited public/private repositories, automatic updates, 2000 CI/CD minutes/month, 500MB package storage, 15GB codebase storage, new issues and projects, community support, and 120 core-hour codebase compute/month.
  • Team Plan: At $3.67/user/month or $44/user/year, it targets large teams needing advanced collaboration and security. It offers all Free Plan features plus access to GitHub Codespaces, protected branches, multiple reviewers, draft pull requests, code owners, required reviewers, pages and wikis, environment deployment branches and secrets, 3000 CI/CD minutes/month, 2GB package storage, and web-based support.
  • Enterprise Plan: Priced at $19.25/user/month or $231/user/year, it caters to organizations requiring advanced security, management, and compliance. It includes all Free and Team Plan features, enterprise-managed users, user provisioning through SCIM, centralized management for multiple organizations, environment protection rules, Audit log API, SAML single sign-on, advanced auditing, GitHub Connect, 50,000 CI/CD minutes/month, and 50GB package storage.

Comparing prices, it is pretty clear that GitHub is more pocket friendly than GitLab, but your choice might differ based on specific needs.

Platform Plan Features Price (per user, per month)
GitLab Free
  • 5GB storage
  • 10GB transfer/month
  • 400 units of compute/month
  • 5 users per namespace
  • 50GB storage
  • 100GB transfer/month
  • 10,000 units of compute/month
  • Code Suggestions
  • Code Ownership and Protected Branches
  • Merge Requests with Approval Rules
  • Enterprise Agile Planning
  • Advanced CI/CD
  • Enterprise User and Incident Management Support
  • 250GB storage
  • 500GB transfer/month
  • 50,000 units of compute/month
  • Free guest users
  • Suggested Reviewers
  • Dynamic Application Security Testing
  • Security Dashboards
  • Vulnerability Management
  • Dependency Scanning
  • Container Scanning
  • Static Application Security Testing
  • Multi-Level Epics
  • Value stream management
GitHub Free
  • Unlimited public repositories
  • Unlimited collaborators
  • 500MB of GitHub Packages storage
Team All Free features, plus:

  • Unlimited private repositories
  • Team access controls
  • 2GB of GitHub Packages storage
Enterprise All Team features, plus:

  • SAML single sign-on
  • Advanced auditing
  • GitHub Connect
  • 50GB of GitHub Packages storage

GitHub has one of the largest communities of developers and enthusiasts worldwide. Considering this, it won’t be wrong to say that GitHub’s active and connected community is one of the reasons behind its success.

GitLab, on the other side, has a smaller community, but the way it engages it by hosting events and gatherings makes it no less than GitHub’s community.

Should You Use GitHub Or GitLab?

Who Should Use GitLab?

  • GitLab is ideal for large enterprises with complex needs as it offers a complete DevOps platform with integrated CI/CD pipelines, project management features, and monitoring tools.
  • GitLab offers advanced self-hosting features, which make it the best fit for self-hosted environments.
  • GitLab is useful for businesses with agile teams as it offers project management features, such as issue tracking and agile boards.
  • The automation features of GitLab can help businesses automate their development processes. So, it’s a great choice for organizations that value automation.

Who Should Use GitHub?

  • Due to its large and active community, GitHub is a good fit for open-source projects.
  • The easy-to-use interface of GitHub makes it a popular choice for tech startups and small businesses.
  • GitHub is a well-suited platform for organizations that prefer cloud-based solutions, as it allows teams to collaborate and work together from anywhere in the world.
  • GitHub offers better security features than GitLab, so it’s better for businesses that require strong security.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use GitLab and GitHub together?

Yes, you can use GitLab and GitHub together because both are Git-based, allowing simultaneous use and flexibility. To use them together, set up automatic mirroring, add both as remote repositories or use each for different purposes to get the best out of both platforms.

Can I import my existing repositories from GitLab and GitHub?

Yes, you can import your existing repositories from GitLab and GitHub. Both platforms provide import tools to easily migrate your repositories from one platform to another. When switching platforms, you can transfer not only your codebase but also associated data such as issues, merge requests, and wikis, ensuring a seamless transition.

Is GitLab safe for private projects?

Yes, GitLab is safe for private projects. GitLab offers private repositories even in its Free tier, which means only authorized users have access to the repository and its contents. GitLab takes various measures to ensure the security and privacy of your projects, including role-based access control, two-factor authentication (2FA), security features, and compliance certifications, such as SOC 2 Type 2 and GDPR.

Which platform is better for large teams?

Determining which platform is better for large teams is difficult, as both have strengths and weaknesses. While GitLab offers strong access controls, built-in CI/CD, and integrated tools, GitHub has a large user base, many integrations, and collaboration features. You need to choose according to your team’s needs.

Ojash Yadav
Ojash Yadav

Ojash has been writing about tech back since Symbian-based Nokia was the closest thing to a smartphone. He spends most of his time writing, researching, or ranting about Bitcoin.

Ojash also contributes to other popular sites like MakeUseOf, SlashGear, and MacBookJournal.

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